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Published in Print: October 31, 2007, as School Issues Vary on States’ Ballots

School Issues Vary on States’ Ballots

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While voters around the country face fewer state ballot measures in the off-year elections than they did in 2006, they still will decide some notable education- and child-related questions when they go to the polls next month.

In Utah, where lawmakers earlier this year approved the nation’s first universal program of private school vouchers, a referendum item pushed by teachers’ unions and other advocacy groups seeks to repeal the as-yet-unimplemented law. The measure has drawn nationwide attention from school choice supporters and opponents. ("A Choice Showdown," Oct. 24, 2007.)

In Minnesota, where the legislature increased education spending by just 1 percent for fiscal 2008, voters are being asked to approve or renew property taxes in 99 of the state’s 341 school districts to support everything from student transportation to technology, according to the Minnesota School Boards Association. Another 40 districts have bond referendums for school construction or other projects on the Nov. 6 ballot.

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School facilities are an issue in Maine, where repairs and maintenance for public schools are among construction projects that would be paid for through a proposed $43.5 million state bond referendum.

In Oregon, voters will decide whether to increase the state’s tobacco tax by 84.5 cents a pack to pay for health coverage for uninsured children. That would bring the total tax to $2.03 a pack, putting that rate in line with neighboring Washington state’s.

Washington state voters will decide a pair of tax measures. Resolution 4204, if approved, would lift the requirement that school district tax levies be approved by a supermajority, two-thirds of the voters. Instead, just a simple majority would be required for passage.

Meanwhile, Initiative Measure 960 in Washington would require approval by two-thirds of each house in the legislature for tax increases, a change that could affect education. Although a similar measure was passed in 1993, supporters of the latest initiative say lawmakers have created loopholes over the years to allow them to avoid the requirement.

Vol. 27, Issue 10, Page 18

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